St. Maarten Government expense on medical aid surpasses budgeted amount

POSTED: 10/26/11 11:38 AM

St. Maarten – The Department of Social Welfare has already spent 3, 639, 519 guilders more than was budgeted for 2011 on medical aid. This was one of the revelations made by Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor Cornelius de Weever on Tuesday as he responded to questions from members of parliament in the second round of discussions on the government’s policy on the issuance of medical aid and social welfare.

According to the minister the government budgeted 10, 565, 091 guilders to cover medical aid, but has spent 14, 204, 610 guilders. Part of the money covered the 135 new requests that were filed between January and September. In terms of demographics the 135 breaks down into 56 male and 79 female and 104 Dutch citizens and 31 non-Dutch citizens.

De Weever also announced in parliament that the representatives of his ministry and staffers of the Department of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BAK) will meet soon to discuss the Public Service Center, which will allow people to have access to their information as listed in the Civil Registry, the Tax Office and potentially the Land Registry so that people can access all their basic information at once, instead of going to multiple departments. The minister also announced that the department has been working to catch fraud by increasing the number of social workers in the department and by doing home visits. He also pointed out those caught defrauding the department can get either two months in prison or a fine up to a maximum of 5, 000 guilders. Fraudsters are also made to pay back what they’ve collected.

The minister also stressed that the department is trying to ensure people on welfare who can find jobs, by having them report to the Department of Labor at least once a month to try to find employment. People who are physically or mentally challenged are exempt from this requirement. Another point the minister stressed is that a person must have less than 5, 000 guilders in assets to come into consideration for assistance. More information on specific points of the policy are to be highlighted during an upcoming public relations campaign.

De Weever also told parliament that the appeals committee he’d installed had received 35 appeals to decisions since it was installed. They have already handled 31 cases and four are still pending. Twenty-six of the appeals were for decisions on financial aid and nine were for decisions on medical aid.

Impassioned self-defense

Though he said he’d not resort to berating any MP for comments made De Weever also put in an impassioned self defense in response to criticism that he was not sufficiently focused on his task as minister. He told MPs that while he understood and shared their emotions he refused to do things like “automatic rollovers without a decree” which are not allowed under present laws. He also pointed out that the figures he’s seen and presented show clear fluctuations of when people are put on or taken off the recipients’ list for social welfare and medical aid.

“I am not a cold hearted minister. I can always be approached and my cabinet has been found to be efficient and helpful. Let me also state I will travel to the four corners of the world to improve healthcare, find more job opportunities and help our people. I am a very hands on person and today, as equal partners in the Kingdom, we must be contribute of share of information and our position abroad. I don’t have to punch a clock. I understand that this is a 24/7 job and I make every decision like it is my last, because that is the nature of this job and so I can go to sleep and wake up with peace of mind, which I do,” de Weever said.

The minister also reminded parliament and the public by extension that parents who need it can access one time disbursements to pay for school fees, burial expenses and calamities.

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